White butterfly, with faint grey markings; side view.

Wood White. Photo: Mark Pike

The Wood White is very rare in Dorset and not common in England.

Where to see

Habitat: In Dorset, only known on the coastal undercliff. Otherwise, mainly woodland rides and clearings.

Caterpillar foodplants: Meadow Vetchling, Bitter Vetch, Tufted Vetch, Bird's-foot Trefoil

Best places: Lyme Regis Undercliff. Please note, there have been landslips in this area, and searching for the butterfly may be hazardous. There used to be a colony at Powerstock Wood, but there have been no sightings since 2013, so it is probably gone from that location.

Distribution map

Explore the Atlas to see historical distribution trends for this species.

When to see

Two generations: the main one in late May/early June, the second in late July/early August.

Sightings by month (last 5 years)*:

Sightings this year*:

Browse the sightings archive.


Size: Small

The wings of the Wood White are much longer in relation to their width, and more oval than any other White. It is also the smallest of our Whites. It is yellowish-white with some indistinct markings.

Its flight is different to other Whites: the wing flaps are very slow and the flight appears to be slow and fluttering.

The Wood White rests with its wings closed, but you may get a glimpse of the upper side when it flies, or see the butterfly with strong backlighting, when you can make out that the males have black wing tips, while the females have just a dusting of grey scales.

Photo gallery

Tip: Click thumbnails to view full-size images.

*Note: The charts shown on this page are drawn only from casual sightings submitted to this website. Records from this website will be added to a lot more data collected throughout the year and used to compile the five-yearly Butterfly Atlases for Dorset and the UK.

Find more Wood White related content, including news and photos.